Taller woman, shorter men: when height differences don't matter for couples

Celebrities and men on the street alike are discarding the notion that women have to date taller men

Art director Laurent Pastorelli, 38, looks up to his wife - in more ways than one.

Despite Mr Pastorelli being 9cm shorter than his wife, Ms Karen Phan, 40, a photography producer, the couple have never let their height difference get in the way of their relationship.

The couple, who have an 11-month-old daughter, Emma, met at a mutual friend's party in 2012.

Mr Pastorelli, who is French, says he was attracted to her instantly.

"Our cabs arrived at the same time and I opened the door for her. I remember the way she exited the cab was so classy."

The two spent the evening talking and he asked her out the next day. Ms Phan says that although she noticed the height difference - he is 165cm, while she is 174cm tall - it did not bother her.

The 174cm-tall Ms Karen Phan is 9cm taller than her husband Laurent Pastorelli (with their baby Emma).
The 174cm-tall Ms Karen Phan is 9cm taller than her husband Laurent Pastorelli (with their baby Emma). ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

"It was something obvious of course, but I didn't really think twice about it. It's not like I'm 50cm taller than him."

The couple have been married since 2015. She even wore three- inch heels during the wedding and Mr Pastorelli had no issues with that.

"She looks great when she wears heels and a long dress. Very stunning and elegant," he says.

It is not just regular couples who are defying height stereotypes. Even among celebrities - where visuals play a part in image-crafting - a woman towering over her male counterpart has become fairly common.

Celebrity couples such as actress Tina Fey and composer Jeff Richmond, Hong Kong actor Simon Yam and model Sophia Kao and English singer Jamie Cullum and model Sophie Dahl are just some famous pairs who ignore height conventions.

English action star Jason Statham and model Rosie Huntington- Whiteley were seen last month on the red carpet premiere of The Fate Of The Furious.

  • Celebrity figures who defy height stereotypes

  • ACTOR SIMON YAM AND MODEL SOPHIA KAO
     

    The 174cm-tall Ms Karen Phan is 9cm taller than her husband Laurent Pastorelli (with their baby Emma).
    PHOTO: REUTERS

    Hong Kong actor Simon Yam married model Sophia Kao, 49, better known as Qi Qi, in 1997. The couple have a 12-year-old daughter Ella.

    Though the 62-year-old veteran is already tall at 1.8m, his wife is often seen standing slightly taller than him.

  • ACTRESS TINA FEY AND COMPOSER AND PRODUCER JEFF RICHMOND
    The 47-year-old American actress and comedienne is often pictured almost a head taller than her 56-year-old husband.

    The two started dating in 1994, married in 2001 and have two daughters, Alice, 11, and Penelope, five.

    The couple have worked together on multiple projects including variety show Saturday Night Live, comedy series 30 Rock and the film Baby Mama (2008).

  • COMEDIAN KEVIN HART AND MODEL ENIKO PARRISH

    The 174cm-tall Ms Karen Phan is 9cm taller than her husband Laurent Pastorelli (with their baby Emma).
    PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/KEVIN HART

    The notably short American comedian often jokes about his height - slightly over 1.6m - and remains confident about his stature.

    The 37-year-old married American model Eniko Parrish, 32, last year and the couple recently announced that they are expecting their first child.

  • MODEL SOPHIE DAHL AND SINGER- SONGWRITER JAMIE CULLUM
    The 1.83m-tall model and author is 20cm taller than her husband.

    Cullum, 37, and Dahl, 39, met in 2008, at a celebrity fundraiser where she sang to his accompaniment on the piano.

    Though he has reportedly said he initially thought she was out of his league, the pair have been married since 2010.

    They have two daughters, Lyra,six, and Margot, four.

  • ENGLISH ACTOR JASON STATHAM AND MODEL ROSIE HUNTINGTON- WHITELEY
     

    The 174cm-tall Ms Karen Phan is 9cm taller than her husband Laurent Pastorelli (with their baby Emma).
    PHOTO: REUTERS

    The 49-year-old action star got engaged to the 30-year-old former Victoria's Secret angel early last year. The couple of five years met on the set of sci-fi action film Transformers in 2011.

    They have been seen both on the red carpet and barefoot on the beach together, with Huntington-Whiteley standing about half a head taller than her chiselled partner.

The British model towered over her stocky partner, but both were all smiles for the camera and each other.

Relationship experts say that though height can be an important and noticeable element in a relationship, there are many other important traits that people look for in their partners and height rarely makes or breaks a relationship.

National University of Singapore undergraduates Mark Lai, 23, and Triscilla Tan, 21, have been dating for eight months and she is 4cm taller than he is.

Mr Lai, who is 173cm tall, says he has never discounted being with taller women.

"I wouldn't go looking for shorter girls, although I know that it is a consideration for many others."

He jokes, however, that when on escalators, he always stands on the step above hers, as that is the only time he can be taller than her.

Ms Tan says being restricted to dating taller men would be difficult for her as, at 177cm, she is taller than the average Singaporean woman.

"I'm okay as long as the difference is not too drastic."

Miss Wu You, 22, and Mr Lenard Ong, 24, both Singaporean undergraduates studying in Oxford University, also say they are fine with the 4cm height difference.

Mr Ong says: "In the past, I was even congratulated for having the confidence to date a taller girl, as some people might feel emasculated."

Ms Wu says that though having a taller husband or boyfriend may give girls a better sense of security, the validity of this "is highly debatable and subjective".

Associate Professor of Psychology at the Singapore Management University Norman Li agrees that while "height mattered in ancestral times, where women were in greater danger of being attacked by animals and men... these threats aren't common anymore, so height doesn't really provide the kind of benefits it used to."

He adds: "When it comes to relationships, other important traits such as physical attractiveness, intelligence, confidence and kindness clearly come into play."

Ms Violet Lim, chief executive officer of dating company Lunch Actually Group, says: "A person's height has nothing to do with how happy you will be as a couple."

She says: "If you have found your soul mate, does it make sense to let this person go just because they are too tall or short and go with someone who's of your ideal height but is less compatible?"

Ms Phan says that rather than the height, it was their personality differences that attracted her to her husband.

"We are so different. He challenges the way I think. If I have an issue I cannot resolve, I talk to him and he gives me a different perspective. I think he fills in the gaps for me personality-wise and makes me a more balanced person."

Mr Pastorelli agrees and adds that they are completely comfortable with each other's stature.

"I like Karen's height. I can hold her waist and her arm fits just right around my shoulders. You know when you fall asleep with someone, it is not always easy to do so in each other's arms. But we fit together like Lego."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Tall and short of relationships'. Print Edition | Subscribe